If you're searching for an American vacation destination that combines natural beauty, family attractions, and outdoor activities, nowhere comes close to the Wisconsin Dells.
Located along a thirty mile stretch of the Wisconsin River, the Dells are a series of canyons carved by the river from the soft sandstone of the valley bed. The results are spectacular, with beautiful rock formations that will make perfect backdrops for your vacation photos.
But the Dells aren't just about gazing in wonder at their beauty. The region is also full of family-oriented resorts like Mt Olympus and Chula Vista, which have huge water parks, roller coasters and other attractions like golf courses and go-karting tracks.
It's this blend of family resorts and natural beauty that makes the Wisconsin Dells such a special vacation destination, one that you will fall in love with in a heartbeat.
Wisconsin Dells has the fun and outdoor attractions of a beach resort, but is located in the middle of America. Where else in the Midwest can you choose from five or more water parks, go water-skiing, sunbathing or swimming whenever you want to? At the resorts of the Dells, you can enjoy all of this, without flying to the coast.
The major reason for the popularity of the Wisconsin Dells is the stunning valley of the Wisconsin River. Over thousands of years, the river has cut into the soft rock of the valley, creating breathtaking rock formations and lakes that seem made for photo opportunities. It's a gorgeous place to explore by boat or on foot.
Golfers will feel spoiled for choice in Wisconsin Dells. Within a tiny patch of Wisconsin, you can choose between 10 great courses, including Chula Vista, Coldwater Canyon, Spring Brook and Wild Rock. It's a fantastic place for a golf break.
Wisconsin Dells grew up as a place for families to get away from city life and unwind. Today, the lake shore, the stores and quirky museums of Broadway and the water park resorts are some of the most entertaining, friendly places to stay in the Midwest.
Wisconsin Dells is the perfect place to visit if you love hiking, climbing, paragliding, hang gliding, mountain biking or kayaking. Anyone with a passion for fresh air and the outdoors can pursue their favorite activities to their heart's content.
If Florida is Disney World, Wisconsin Dells is water parks. It's probably America's capital city of wave pools, lazy rivers and winding water slides. Head to huge complexes like Mt Olympus, Chula Vista or Noah's Ark for fun in open air and indoor pools.
If splashing around isn't your idea of fun, the Dells offers a wide selection of golf courses that might be for you. Courses like Trappers Turn and Wild Rock will welcome every visitor and offer a real challenge for golfers of all standards.
When you visit the Dells, you simply have to take a tour on the Wisconsin River. Taking boat trips with companies like Upper & Lower Dells Boat Tours is the best way to see the unique rock formations and canyons of the region. Better yet, you can even rent kayaks from the Wisconsin Canoe Company and cruise on the river all day long.
Wisconsin Dells is home to some of America's strangest and most entertaining museums. Ripley's Believe it or Not! provides a few shocks and surprises, but the Museum of Historic Torture Devices is much more unsettling. There's also a fascinating Circus Museum and the Mid-Continent Rail Museum, which showcases a collection of steam locomotives from the 19th-century.
Because of its steep canyons and jagged rock formations, the Dells region attracts its fair share of hikers and rock climbers. If you want to pit your skills against the toughest slopes and cliff faces, take an expedition with Devil's Lake Climbing Guides who will show you the ropes and the finest places to climb.
Even though the hotels and water parks are more crowded, there's no escaping the fact that the Wisconsin Dells is a classic summer vacation destination. Between June and August, the weather is hot (but rarely too humid or oppressive) and the town is full of energy. Try scheduling an early or mid-June trip to avoid the heaviest crowds and save money on accommodation.
The nearest airport to the Wisconsin Dells is Dane County Regional Airport near Madison, which is only around 50 miles away. The best way to transfer from Madison to the Dells is by catching a Greyhound bus from Huxley Street in Madison or renting a car at the airport (major companies like Enterprise and Budget have offices at the airport terminal).
Catching the train is a great way to reach the Dells, and the resort has its own Amtrak station located at 100 LaCrosse Street. The station is connected to Chicago and Seattle via the Empire Builder route, which runs once a day.
The Wisconsin Dells are easily accessible by car. From Minneapolis and the northwest, take I-94, while those coming from Chicago need to take I-90. From Milwaukee, take I-94 and change onto I-90 to the Dells.
Greyhound has a stop in the center of Wisconsin Dells at 611 Frontage Rd, and connects the town with all major cities in the Midwest and northern states.
The town of Wisconsin Dells and the valleys around it are full of high-quality accommodation, with a range of family-friendly resorts and more secluded options for couples and senior travelers. If you are traveling with kids, try Chula Vista Resort, which has an on-site water park or the Mt Olympus Resort. Couples might look at Rhapsody Resort and Spa, which combines a wellness center with a beautiful lakefront location. There are also excellent budget accommodation options like the Evergreen Motel and the Kilbourn Inn. If you want to retreat and enjoy some peace and quiet, the cabin rentals at Spring Brook Resort could be ideal.
Broadway – Broadway is the main shopping and nightlife street in Wisconsin Dells, and it's also where you will find most of the tourist attractions, such as Ripley's Believe it or Not! and the boarding point of Dells Ghost Boat. If you head to the resort with your family, it's the place to go for entertainment.
Mt Olympus – Located just across the river from the main part of town and a little southwest of Broadway, Mt Olympus is the largest resort in town. It has a huge water park, go karting tracks, zipline parks and nightly music events.
Lake Delton – In the southern part of the Dells you'll find Lake Delton - one of the most beautiful lakes in the area. The lakeshore is studded with resorts and water parks like Noah's Ark, as well as some of the best golf courses in the region, like the Wilderness Resort. It's also the place to go for watersports like water-skiing, wakeboarding, and power boating.
You don't really need to use the local public transit system if you are sticking to the Dells itself. Almost all of the resorts and attractions are on Broadway or Wisconsin Dells Parkway. Most people rely on shuttle buses to get around, and these are available at the leading resorts.
Taxis are a good way to hop between Broadway and sites like Lake Delton. Fares vary between companies, but you'll typically pay a $2-meter drop charge, then between $2 and $3 per mile. Uber are active in the Dells, and charge a basic fare of $2 then $1.50 per mile, so their prices aren't much lower than local cab companies.
Many people choose to rent a car when they arrive in Madison or at Chicago O'Hare airport, and it's useful to have your own wheels if you intend to see the valleys or play some golf. It also allows you to enjoy local attractions like the Big Sky Drive-In Theater, something available in fewer and fewer American cities.
Broadway is the town's major shopping street, and it's a particularly good place to shop for sweets. Stores like Candy Connection and Swiss Maid Fudge will satisfy anyone's sweet tooth. There are also souvenir stores like Uptown Trading Gifts (a good place to find some authentic moccasin shoes) as well as upscale boutiques like Alpha Beta Karma. Away from Broadway, you'll find plenty of historic artefacts and gift ideas at Parson's Indian Trading Post & Museum, and the same applies for the Wisconsin Dells Antique Mall, located a few miles south on Wisconsin Dells Parkway.
If you choose to stay in self-catering apartments or cabins, there are plenty of places to stock up on groceries. There are a Krogers and a Walmart on the edge of Wisconsin Dells, so buying food and drink isn't a problem. Prices are slightly cheaper than average, at around $3 for a gallon of milk and $1.50 for a pound of apples.
Wisconsin Dells has a huge array of places to eat, as you'd expect from such a popular resort town. If you want to fill up on calamari, shrimp and sushi, head to Crabby's All You Can Eat Seafood. Hefty Bronco Burgers are on the menu at Bronco Billy's Saloon while healthy vegetarian dishes are available from the Cheese Factory. But if you want to spend big on a romantic meal, heading to Ishnala Supper Club is a must. Set in a gorgeous lakefront location, it serves a wide range of European gourmet dishes. In general, you'll pay around $15 for a mid-range meal and around $50 at upmarket eateries like Ishnala.